Will Sea-Gull’s Shale Wall Break the Bank?


Courtesy of Beckett & Raeder, this drawing represents the slope of the current hill at the back of the parking lot next to the boat launch, with options for slope corrections. The anchored mesh is represented by the yellow anchor lines on the bottom left of the slope. The knobs running along the edge of the slope are the fasteners for the mesh. The Sentinel has calculated a new line using the 1 foot up, 2 feet across ratio (see blue line) to demonstrate where the proposed safer slope would be. The blue star at the top of the hill represents the end of the slope where the split rail fence could be re-installed. The star is about 120 feet from where the fence is currently. All of the material to the left of the Sentinel’s line would be removed. The resulting permanent slope, landscaped in appropriate ground cover is the safest option.

The April 13 regular meeting of the Hayes Township Board of Trustees took place on-line and proceeded without technical difficulty. Several residents attended either by phone or computer. Then Supervisor Ron VanZee broke the news that he had received the first draft drawings and estimates from Beckett & Raeder to fix the shale wall.  The estimates were 10 times what the Board had planned on spending.  It was a shock to all who have been following the year-long attempt to find a solution to mitigating the danger of larger and larger chunks of Norwood shale shedding off the nearly perpendicular 30 foot wall at the back of the boat launch parking lot.

Supervisor Ron VanZee reported that according to the first draft of proposals from Beckett & Raeder to secure the wall, the cost would be between $400,000 and $450,000.  Last summer when our insurance carrier advised us to fix the wall in order to open the park the estimate to fence off the shale wall was $45,000. Suddenly the fix went from possible-but-difficult-to-finance to seemingly impossible.

Since that financial bomb hit the BOT, Beckett & Raeder have done further investigating this month. VanZee has received another estimate from them that will probably go to $900,000 and possibly upward to a million dollars, in order to safely secure the wall that presents a clear and present danger to the public this spring.

rock wallAn explanation is in order and it is at once both disturbing and frustrating. There is hope however at the same time. Recently the approximately 30 foot high section of wall opposite the launch and fishing pier (the cliff) has been shedding some very heavy pieces of shale, as well as some rocks and dirt from the upper layer of the slope. These pieces are much larger than in the past. Supervisor VanZee estimates that some of the pieces of shale are between 3000-4000 pounds, much heavier than the original slab pieces. There is a steady stream of water coming out of many places in the Norwood shale portion of the wall (about 8 feet high in some spots) and the wall has cracks that appear to be widening due to the freeze-thaw cycle. VanZee and the engineers from Beckett & Raeder have noticed that the shedding of the shale portion also seems to be undercutting the Paxton shale and glacial overburden that rests on the Norwood shale which could mean a wall collapse.

The heavy spring rains have not yet come and when they do, both VanZee and the engineers are afraid there may be a big slide, endangering anyone in the way as well as polluting Lake Charlevoix significantly. With that possibility in mind the engineers have done more research and believe they have found a better answer than the previously proposed anchored steel mesh to stabilize the hillside, which would also require an expensive cleanout every 10 years. Beckett & Raeder are also looking for a solution that they can guarantee, one that they know is not dangerous, and they want to be able to get to work on it right away.

They are currently fine tuning a plan that will reduce the whole slope of the hill from the bottom parking level to the top of the wall to a constant slope of 1:2. For every foot in height the slope gains it would also go 2 feet horizontally.  Currently the hill is directly perpendicular where the shale is and goes to a one foot up to one foot over (1:1) slope above the shale.


Robert Jess to Run for District 1 County Commissioner’s Seat

Robert Jess, currently a Trustee on the Hayes Township Board threw his hat into the ring for the District 1 Charlevoix County Commissioner’s seat. Jess lives in Hayes Township with his wife Zeze, his daughter Alessandra who is 12, and his son Julius aged 7. He has served as Chairman of the Hayes Township Planning Commission and won a seat on the Hayes Board in the 2018 recall election.

Jess graduated from Charlevoix High School and has a Master of Architecture degree from Detroit Mercy. He has served on the Charlevoix Chamber of Commerce Board, the Home Builders’ Association of Northern Michigan Board, and has coached T-ball, flag football, and basketball.

He will run against Kathleen Donohue of Bay Township in the Republican primary on August 4, 2020.
Vote May 5

Doug Kuebler Seeks Position Vacated by Jess on Hayes Board

Doug Kuebler comes from a family tradition of public service in local politics. His father Lloyd who died in 2017 served on the Hayes Township Board for over thirty years. His mother Anna who lives down the road from Doug served on the Hayes Township Election Board for 35 years and cleaned the Township Hall for at least 25 years. His daughter Lisa Kuebler is a member of the Parks and Recreation Committee.

Kuebler himself served as Trustee on the Board for 23 years, resigning in 2015. He has served on the Planning Commission and volunteered for numerous committees and projects, including providing sweetcorn for the annual Hayes Township Parkluck gathering. Kuebler owns Kuebler Farms on Upper Bay Shore Road and grows crops for livestock and vegetables for his farm market stand.

When asked why he decided to run again he replied, “My supervisor asked me to.” Kuebler is unopposed in the August Republican primary.

New Clerk Dives into Workload

Kristin B ClerkIn April I mailed out vote-by-mail applications to all the registered voters in Hayes Township. The voters have already returned more ballot requests for our May 5th Special Election than the total of votes cast in the March 2020 Primary!  We have been working hard to get ballots mailed right back out when we receive your application.  Thank you to everyone for taking the time to make your vote count. The deadline to return the ballots is 8pm on May 5. You may vote in person at the Township Hall if you wish, however if you want to vote by mail and have not received your ballot yet give me a call.

The Township has received the official award notice of the Charlevoix Millage Grant we applied for to build a playground next to the Township Hall!  We will be scheduling the notice to bid for our new play area as soon as we can.  It will be wonderful to have a centrally located play area.  The park next to our township hall is a great place to have a picnic and toss a frisbee around and will soon have new equipment for summertime fun.

I know these last weeks have been a difficult time for many people, but I see many good things happening all around us.  Neighbors are looking out for each other; individuals are making a real difference to others.  The pantries outside the township hall have been getting a lot of use, but one thing I notice is that people who visit them are very respectful of others and they take only what they need.  This touches my heart and speaks volumes about the true kindness of our community.

If you have any questions about anything having to do with the Township, or just to say ‘Hi’, you are always welcome to give me a call: (231)547-6961.  I am honored to be working for the residents of Hayes Township.

Your Mental Health: Dealing with Mental Illness

By Julie Collard

Julie C TreasurerWhat was once only whispered about behind closed doors is now something most people have encountered or experienced in their lives.  Dealing with mental illness in one form or another is commonplace.  One of the biggest challenges for people is in how to deal with a family member’s or friend’s altered mental state.  It can feel alienating and scary at times.  Having support and knowledge can make all the difference.

We are currently experiencing an unusual time in this world as we cope with the COVID 19 pandemic.  There are many dynamics at work as to how people are processing and dealing with stress, fear, and uncharted territory.  There is a hotline set up specifically to address today’s concerns and mental health issues:  MDHHS COVID-19 hotline.

You can call 1-888-535-6136, from 8am to 5pm, 7 days a week, or e-mail questions or concerns to COVID19@michigan.gov.

If you are dealing with a loved one who suffers from mental illness:

  • Be informed.
  • Develop a helpful approachtowards the person suffering.
  • Say what you think positively.
  • Encourage the  person suffering to seek professional help when necessary.
  • Express your feelings.
  • Take care of yourself.
  • Solve one problem at a time.
  • Respect your limits and seek help when necessary.

Mental health is important for everyone.  For more resources on mental health, visit: https://www.nami.org/

Horse Sense from the Supervisor

By Ron VanZee

Ron V SupervisorWe humans are supposed to be the only creatures on the planet that plan ahead and can reason.  I continually hear my wife saying to her riding students who are trying to understand equine behavior, “Horses do not think that way!”

I believe her. We have a couple of horses that dump their water buckets out every night and then are extremely thirsty in the morning. It doesn’t matter how many times they dump it and are thirsty in the morning, they do not make the connection.  We have others that throw their grain everywhere, thus they do not have as much to eat.  Again, they just do not understand what they are losing.

As humans, and especially as Americans, it seems that even though we understand the impact and consequences of what happens to us in extreme times, we forget way too fast.  Forgetting too fast puts us in almost the same category as the horse.  It keeps us hungry and thirsty and we can’t remember why.

In this country, in this county, in this township we should always be prepared.  We should always have a reserve.  We should always have a plan.

We are currently preparing our township budget for the 2020/2021 budget year.  We are unsure of a lot of things.  We know our State Revenue Sharing is going to be reduced.  We are not sure if our citizens will be back to work and be able to pay property taxes that include road and park millages.  We are not sure about the other incomes such as zoning, hall rental, donations, or income from activities at the park.

We do know we have to keep the lights on.  We also know we have to provide the basic services our citizens expect and have previously paid for.  We also need, in these crazy times, a format to provide access and transparency to our public.  This means more electronics with more understanding especially for those of us that didn’t want to learn how to use a computer for more than writing a letter or checking email.  We are also devoting a tremendous amount of time with the State Granting Agencies working together to figure out a way to completely open Hayes Township Park.

Fortunately, we have a fabulous staff.  Our elected officials as well as all the committee members and volunteers are working toward the same goals and objectives.  We are optimistic.  We enjoy working together.

We will document and remember our mistakes.  We will not dump our water every night.  We will not scatter our grain all over the ground.  We will be cautious.  We will be responsible. We will be transparent.

April Treasurer Report

Board of Trustee Virtual Meeting:
May 11, 2020@7pm

To join by phone, simply call 1-253-215-8782.  When prompted, enter the meeting ID 944 8747 4228 and then use the password 560144.  You will be connected to the meeting and be able to communicate via audio.

Via computer go to to zoom.us and click on join a meeting.  A box will come up for you to enter the meeting ID: 944 8747 4228.  Then enter the password: 560144.  When you join the meeting you have the choice to join by both video and audio or just audio. You can choose to participate during public comment.
Online Cartoon

Why is the Boat Launch and Fishing Pier Closed?

Frank Shepherd Publisher EmeritusAre you as mad and upset as me?  Were you looking forward to visiting the newest Hayes Township Park with their beautiful new boat launch? Can you believe it will be closed for the second year in a row unless the Board works a miracle? What is happening?

Well, after $6. Million (Yes, $6. Million and rising) spent to purchase and develop the site, which was a former girls camp, it remains closed until serious safety issues are addressed. And the Township’s current engineering firm, Beckett & Raeder, has estimated it will cost $600,000 to $900,000 to “fix” the very steep shale wall that runs alongside the boat launch road.

Large chunks of shale are breaking off and falling onto the road (see picture) and causing the road to be closed to traffic. It also poses a very serious safety issue.

And now the experts are saying there is an additional concern that “the entire hill could slide down” if not fixed properly.

Here are the facts, as I know them: (1)The township insurance company (through the State of Michigan) sent their Risk Manager to visit the park in 2019 and he said the park should not be opened until the wall was secure and that “shedding” should not fall on the roadway. It is a safety issue. (2) The township attorney told the Board of Trustees the township could be sued if someone was injured because of “falling rocks and shale” and the Board could be held personally responsible and liable. (3) The current township engineers (Beckett & Raeder) told township officials the wall needed to be secured from “frequent shedding,”that it was a safety issue, and not to open the park until they designed a permanent “fix”. (4) Our current elected officials, including the Supervisor, Clerk, Treasurer, and two trustees have unanimously agreed with the “experts” hired to assess the situation and the risk. Hence, they have unanimously voted to secure the wall before the park can be opened. (5) In addition to the above, the Granting Agency for the State of Michigan will not release the final grant monies to the Township until the wall is secured and the park deemed “finished and open.” (6) And finally, Beckett&Raeder are now saying “we are concerned the entire hillside might “slide” down.

Are our township officials correct in following the advice they are receiving from their professionals and their attorney? Absolutely. Are they looking for the money to fix the safety issues? Yes. Will it be easy? No. I believe it will be quite difficult.

But one thing I am absolutely sure of: The hardworking taxpayers of Hayes Township should not be expected to pick up this possible $1 million tab for the mistakes of others. Those who made these serious mistakes should be held responsible and they should pick up the tab. Otherwise, our beautiful park will possibly remain closed. Now how sad is that!

If you have ideas about how to fix the situation or where to get the funds I suggest you call anyone of the following and let them know your point of view and suggestions.

Ron VanZee, Supervisor, (231 497-4701) Julie Collard, Treasurer (231 547-6961) Trustee Bob Jess (231 881-1470) Trustee Matt Cunningham (231 881-1533)

They will need all the help and ideas they can get!

Some Thoughts from my COVID Shelter

Leslie Cunningham Observatin DeckZoom works  The April 13 BOT meeting worked like a charm. Board members and members of the public either phoned in as in a conference call, or we connected via computers equipped with microphones and cameras. I highly recommend that you learn how to do this. I’m a pretty old dog and I learned this new trick easily. You do have the option of turning off your camera in case you want to eat popcorn while attending.  The Board plans to have this technology available at all BOT meetings in the future for those who cannot physically attend the meeting.

The tumble-down wall The shale wall at Camp Sea-Gull has hung like an albatross around the necks of the current Board members for over a year now. Sources close to the Board’s new engineering firm have told me that once the first bucket dug into the hillside, the integrity of that slope was in jeopardy. It would appear that it was never a good idea to excavate that much dirt out and expect a wall to stand at the back, considering the geological make up of the hill as demonstrated by the layering of different kinds of shale with springs running through them and the glacial overburden on top.  But it is what  it is, and we have to move forward to get the park open this year.

I believe the Board has acted wisely in taking the time to explore three or four solutions to fixing the wall. We started with a fence at the bottom and soon the failings and ongoing expense of that answer became clear. Then a mesh net seemed the way to go, but further research suggested that it would not serve us well and was very expensive. Then engineers suggested changing the slope with terracing but that solution would take up a lot of valuable space. Finally they came up with simply changing the constant slope to a gentler angle.

This fix too is incredibly expensive but it seems to be the best permanent big-picture solution. It is primarily a matter of excavating a lot of material and using it to level off a number of areas in the Park. If the DNR Trust Fund and the Waterways Commission can help us, we may be able to get the Park open safely this year.

Some have suggested that the Township should pursue a lawsuit against those responsible for this problem. I believe that path, while perhaps bringing a sense of personal justice to some, (myself included) would be a useless and fruitless pursuit.  We are better off to put our energy into grant hunting, convincing donors to help us, and dreaming about how to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. I believe that our hope to restore the natural splendor of a public lakeside respite is still possible. Creating a gentler slope will protect the lake from contamination as well. The land still belongs to us; we haven’t lost it. We can find a way. Meanwhile please feel free to write a letter to the Sentinel and tell us what you think, and keep the faith.

Your Township Officials

Township Officials May 2020